How Mortal Kombat 11 Re-imagines Its Classic Characters

How Mortal Kombat 11 Re-imagines Its Classic Characters

NetherRealm Studios likes fixing things that aren’t broken. 

With each game it creates, the studio has a propensity towards changing many elements of its model rather than just adjusting balance and adding characters. 

Even casual fans have noticed how Scorpion’s appearance has changed from the iconic yellow-and-black pajamas that defined his character in the first game, even though hardcore gamers will note changes to meters, attack speeds, and more.

In that regard, some of the studio’s most radical changes may be found in Mortal Kombat 11.

To comprehend the thought, preparation, and implementation that went into the new look and to see how it all came together, we sat down with the team in charge of it.

Starting with Mortal Kombat 11

Brendan George, the art lead of NetherRealm, made a substantial contribution to the development of the Mortal Kombat characters.

George claims he adhered to three key ideas when defining the sequel’s aesthetic. 

The staff was instructed to refrain from using the same language repeatedly, as has long been the case at NetherRealm. 

Ed Boon, the creator of the series, wanted a fresh aesthetic to go along with the game’s numerous gameplay and technical improvements to prevent stagnation. 

This required going through everyone’s appearance, including stalwarts like Sub-Zero, fan favorites who were back like Skarlet, and even more recent newcomers like Jacqui Briggs.

Second, George turned to a timeless source of inspiration—Mortal Kombat 3, a game he loved as a child—to help define the new aesthetic. 

Starting with Mortal Kombat 11

For George, this meant giving Mortal Kombat 11 a fresh dose of color and more streamlined, legible designs that stood out from their surroundings. 

Even though previous iterations of NetherRealm had some outstanding technology, the world’s sometimes gloomy and subdued color schemes made it difficult to understand certain behaviors immediately. 

In addition to making the palette seem more excellent, updating it would make it simpler for players to understand individual attack animations and recognize the visual signals they need to block effectively.

This emphasis on vivid colors and striking designs fits in well with George’s third guiding principle: 

The premise of Mortal Kombat 11 includes selecting several iterations of characters like Scorpion and Johnny Cage from both past and current timelines. 

This enabled NetherRealm to advance simultaneously in both directions by delivering its more “classic” character versions and more experimental character designs.

It also required a lot of work because Mortal Kombat 11’s designs represent NetherRealm’s broadest range. In our game, we have about 25 heroes, explains George.

Therefore, we’re working to make sure that happens so that every character has a unique appearance and features that are specific to them but also not treading the same terrain repeatedly. 

The artist claims you need to have many ideas to achieve that appearance. Attempting to make each one appear sophisticated in their luxury while also making each appear unique in personality.

The Details: The NetherRealm

Despite Mortal Kombat 11’s abundance of costumes, accessories, and other accouterments, each unique look was carefully planned out.

The Details The NetherRealm

Beginning with George and a small group of others checking out each character’s identity, Dominic Cianciolo, the story director, then chooses a character’s thematic history based on an outline of that character’s part in the narrative. 

George then presents the brief to the design team, who are in charge of the gameplay aspect of the game, to gain a sense of their potential combat style or the potential use of their weaponry.

Katal Makeover:

Overall, depending on the character, the redesign, modeling, and full implementation of these characters into the game might take anywhere from a few months to a whole year. 

A character’s initial concept might take five to six days to develop, and the whole feedback loop for a character—which includes images, iterations, and idea reduction—could take three weeks to complete. The character model might take eight weeks to complete.

Every character should be able to stand out on their own and be more than a one-note figure. The group sought motivation to accomplish that goal.

Katal Makeover

George explains that because Johnny Cage has such a varied personality, our main effort here has been to attempt to add that amount of complexity to other characters. 

I think that way is pushed by the animation, the intros, the fatalities, and the character designs.

Some designs were instantly appealing to Raiden, we received his concept quickly back, and it contained simply five incredibly cool clothes.

The hardest part now is deciding which one is the coolest, John explains. Others may require much more time.

We rebooted a few characters because I wouldn’t say I liked how they looked.

A few of Sonya’s clothes had to be redone, and some of them turned into extra skins. Kano had a late-stage retooling as well.

According to George, Jacqui Briggs, a relatively new character from Mortal Kombat X, is an example of a character who underwent one of the most significant overhauls.

He says that he appreciates how hard we worked to give her a little personality. In the last game, she was pretty much just a military girl.

This time, she wears her own suit, reflecting her unique individuality. I worked hard to ensure that some of the various skins we have for her have personalities. I am pretty proud of that. 

Sometimes, like with Jacqui, aesthetic and technical flourishes work together seamlessly.

Her leg augments staff offers the option to jump off those spots to make a more intriguing designed character, too.

It gives her the ability to kick the ball quickly. She now uses more than just guns in the fight; she also uses kicks and other similar techniques. So they are the things I enjoy viewing.

Skarlet, a resurrected character from Mortal Kombat reboot 2011 that underwent a significant redesign for Mortal Kombat 11, required roughly ten complete tries and several months to perfect.

Infinite Possibilities:

Additionally, the multiverse idea allows George to employ various strategies, some of which can be traced back to Mortal Kombat’s sillier beginnings.

As George puts it, (Error Black) looks like a human, like a regular dude, and then he travels to Outworld and becomes this wanderer.

He appears to be wearing jeans and a leather jacket, but he is wearing insane armor.

There are several sub-skins. One of Error Black’s sub-skins, in which he is covered head to toe in this svelte little knight armor, is one of my favorite looks in the entire game.

The team can tell a variety of minor, disjointed storylines by veering off in these more adventurous paths.

Brendan says this does not occur in the game’s story mode, but Cassie Cage, for instance, has a skin resembling a space suit.

Infinite Possibilities

But perhaps she does, in another frame, which would require a new wardrobe.

The squad has the opportunity to mix traditional and modern fashions thanks to all the equipment and skins. 

Kabal was an exceptionally excellent illustration of that, claims Beran. 

The mask’s initial construction was a jumbled mess of army surplus store apparel and duct tape. Still, George has made intelligent modifications that feel true to the mask’s general design. 

The group can, however, have its cake and eat it too. We also have luck in those places because we recently added the Mortal Kombat mask. 

The wonderful thing about the gear system is that it allows you to put more conventional items in there.

A core identity that is consistent, fashionable, and faithful to the spirit of the series is at the center of all these many overhauls, branching out, and tangents, creating a mixture of discordant looks that somehow work. 

Given the time and effort spent creating these outfits, it almost seems unfortunate that most people will only see them being destroyed.

Click on the banner below to read more about Mortal Kombat 11 and keep up with our launch-related coverage. 

The game’s story mode creator will be interviewed the following week, and the two top players from the company will compete.

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